The word of the LORD that came to Jeremiah the prophet against the Philistines, before that Pharaoh smote Gaza.
Verse 1. - Against the Philistines; rather, concerning (as usual in similar cases). Before that Pharaoh, etc. (see introduction to chapter).
Thus saith the LORD; Behold, waters rise up out of the north, and shall be an overflowing flood, and shall overflow the land, and all that is therein; the city, and them that dwell therein: then the men shall cry, and all the inhabitants of the land shall howl.
Verses 2-4. - Hostile bands advance from the north; horror seizes the Philistines. Verse 2. - Waters rise up. The prophets think in figures, and no figure is so familiar to them (alas for the unstable condition of those times!) as that of an overflowing torrent for an invading army (see on Jeremiah 46:8, and add to the parallel passages Isaiah 28:18; Ezekiel 26:19; Daniel 11:10). Out of the north. To suppose that this refers to Pharaoh-necho returning from Carchemish seems forced and unnatural. If Necho conquered Gaza at the period supposed, it would be on his way to Carchemish, and not on his return. Besides," the north" is the standing symbol for the home of the dreaded Assyrian and Babylonian foes (see on Jeremiah 1:14). Isaiah had uttered a very similar prediction when the Assyrian hosts were sweeping through Palestine (Isaiah 14:31). An overflowing flood; rather, torrent. The same phrase occurs in Isaiah 30:28, where the "breath" of the angry God is described with this figurative expression. It is in autumn time that the torrents of Palestine become dangerous, and water courses, dry or almost dry in summer (comp. Jeremiah 15:18), become filled with a furiously rushing stream.
At the noise of the stamping of the hoofs of his strong horses, at the rushing of his chariots, and at the rumbling of his wheels, the fathers shall not look back to their children for feebleness of hands;
Verse 3. - A fine specimen of Hebrew word painting. The rushing of his chariots. "Rushing" has the sense of the German rauschen, to make a rustling, murmuring sound. It is used (but as the equivalent of a different Hebrew word) in the Authorized Version of Isaiah 18:12, 13 of the confused sound made by an army in motion. In the present passage, the Hebrew word means something more definite than that in Isaiah, l.c.; it is the "crashing" of an earthquake, or (as here) the "rattling" of chariots. The rumbling of his wheels. "Rumbling" is a happy equivalent. The Hebrew (hamon) is the word referred to in the preceding note as meaning an indefinite confused sound. The fathers shall not look back to their children, etc. An awful picture, and still more effective in the concise language of the original. The Hebrew Scriptures excel (as still more strikingly, but with too great a want of moderation, does the Koran) in the sublime of terror. So overpowering shall the panic be that fathers will not even turn an eye to their helpless children. Observe, it is said "the fathers," not "the mothers." The picture is poetically finer than that in Deuteronomy 28:56, 57, because the shade of colouring is a degree softer. Feebleness of hands. A common expression for the enervation produced by extreme terror (see Jeremiah 6:24; Isaiah 13:7; Ezekiel 7:17; Nahum 2:11).
Because of the day that cometh to spoil all the Philistines, and to cut off from Tyrus and Zidon every helper that remaineth: for the LORD will spoil the Philistines, the remnant of the country of Caphtor.
Verse 4. - The day that cometh; rather, the day that hath come (i.e. shall have come). It is "the day of the Lord" that is meant, that revolutionary "shaking of all things" (to use Haggai's expression, Haggai 2:21), as to which see further in note on Jeremiah 46:10. To cut off... every helper that remaineth; i.e. every ally on whom they could still reckon. This passage favours the view that the judgment upon the Philistines took place at the same time as that upon Tyre. Nebuchadnezzar's object was to isolate Tyre and Sidon as completely as possible. The remnant. The Philistines had suffered so much from repeated invasions as to be only a "remnant" of the once powerful nation which oppressed Israel (see on Jeremiah 25:20). The country of Caphtor. Some would render "the coastland of Caphtor," but the idea of "coast" seems to be a secondary one, derived in certain passages from the context. Properly speaking, it is a poetic synonym for "land," and is generally applied to distant and (accidentally) maritime countries. "Caphtor" was understood by the old versions to be Cappadocia. But as the remains of the Cappadocian language point to a Persian origin of the population which spoke it, and as the Caphtorim originally came from Egypt, it is more plausible to suppose, with Ebers, that Caphtor was a coast district of North Egypt. Crete has also been thought of (comp. Amos 9:7; Genesis 10:14; Deuteronomy 2:23).
Baldness is come upon Gaza; Ashkelon is cut off with the remnant of their valley: how long wilt thou cut thyself?
Verses 5-7. - The prophet changes his style. In ecstasy or imagination, he sees the calamity which he has foretold already come to pass. Philistia is not, indeed, altogether annihilated; it was not the will of God to make a full end as yet with any of the nations round about. But it is reduced to extremities, and fears the worst. Verse 5. - Baldness. A sign of the deepest sorrow (comp. on Jeremiah 16:6). Ashkelon is cut off. Ruins of Ashkelon are still visible. "It is evident that the walls of the old city were built on a semicircular range of rocky hills, which ended in perpendicular cliffs of various heights on the seashore. Wherever nature failed, the weak places were strengthened by the help of earthworks or masonry. On the southern and southeastern sides, the sand has penetrated the city by means of breaches in the walls, and every day it covers the old fortifications more and more, both within and without. The ancient towns alone rise distinctly, like rocky islands, out of the sea of sand. The ruins on the north are bordered by plantations of trees. They lie in such wild confusion that one might suppose that they were thrown down by an earthquake. There is no secure landing place; the strip of sand at the foot of the western wall is covered at high tide, when the waves beat against the cliffs. Still J.G. Kinnear, in 1841, found some remains of a mole, and this discovery is confirmed by Schick [the able German architect now at Jerusalem]." Thus writes Dr. Guthe, in the Journal of the German Palestine Exploration Society (1880), remarking further that, in a few generations, the ruins of Ashkelon will be buried under the drifting sand. It is partly the sand hills, partly the singular fragmentariness of the ruins of Ashkelon, which gives such an air of desolation to the scene, though, where the deluge of sand has not invaded, the gardens and orchards are luxuriant. Dr. W.M. Thomson, in the enlarged edition of 'The Land and the Book' (London, 1881, p. 173), observes that "the walls and towers must have been blown to pieces by powder, for not even earthquakes could throw these gigantic masses of masonry into such extraordinary attitudes. No site in this country has so deeply impressed my mind with sadness." With the remnant of their valley. "With" should rather be "even." "Their valley" means primarily the valley of Ashkelon; but this was not different from the valley or low-lying plain (more commonly called the Shefelah) of the other Philistian towns; and the whole phrase is an enigmatical, poetic way of saying "the still surviving population of Philistia." But this addition certainly weakens the passage, and leaves the second half of the verse abnormally short. It is far better to violate the Massoretic tradition, and attach "the remnant," etc., to the second verse half. But "their valley" is still a rather feeble expression; a proper name is what we look for to make this clause correspond to those which have gone before. The Septuagint reads differently, for it renders καὶ τὰ κατὰλοιπα Ἐνακείμ. We know from Joshua 11:22 that some of the Anakim were left "in Gaza, in Gath, and in Ashdod;" and in David's time the Philistines could still point to giants in their midst (1 Samuel 17:4; 2 Samuel 21:16-22), who, like the Anakim (Deuteronomy 2:20), are called in the Hebrew, Rephaim. It may be objected, indeed (as it is by Keil), that the Anakim would not be traceable so late as Jeremiah's time; but Jeremiah was presumably a learned man, and was as likely to call the Philistines Anakim, as an English poet to call his countrymen Britons. No one who has given special attention to the phenomena of the Hebrew text elsewhere can doubt that "their valley" is a corruption; the choice lies between the "Anakim" of the Septuagint and the plausible correction of a Jewish scholar (A. Krochmal), "Ekron." How long wilt thou cut thyself? Shall thy lamentation never cease? (comp. on Jeremiah 16:6). The question is in appearance addressed to "the remnant" (personified as a woman), but in reality the judicial Providence who sends the calamity.
O thou sword of the LORD, how long will it be ere thou be quiet? put up thyself into thy scabbard, rest, and be still.
Verse 6. - O thou sword, etc.; rather, alas! thou sword of the Lord.. It is the mystic sword of which we have heard already (see on Jeremiah 12:10; 46:10).
How can it be quiet, seeing the LORD hath given it a charge against Ashkelon, and against the sea shore? there hath he appointed it.
Verse 7. - The seashore. So Ezekiel speaks of "the remnant of the seashore" (Ezekiel 25:16), referring to Philistia.